Eating disorders and pregnancy
The Health Foundation has funded a 15-month project under their Evidence into Practice scheme – ‘Eating disorders and pregnancy’. The overall aim of the project is to use recent research findings to create innovative co-designed educational training resources on eating disorders for health professionals who provide services for pregnant and postnatal women.
Why is this research needed?
Perinatal mental illness is a major issue facing public health services. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder affect up to 5-7.5% of women during pregnancy and increase the risk of obstetric complications and adverse child development outcomes.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines (2014) recommend that all women should be asked about any mental illness at their first appointments in pregnancy and in the postnatal period. It also states that women with eating disorders should be provided with additional support throughout this time. However, barriers can exist which prevent healthcare professionals from implementing the guidelines in practice.
About the research project
The researchers have produced a five-minute animation film and a website with additional resources. The aim of the resources is to:
- increase clinicians’ knowledge of the evidence based information on eating disorders during the perinatal period
- reduce the stigma associated with mental illness
- enable practitioners to know how to best work with these women during the perinatal period to ensure appropriate identification, support and referral to other services.
These resources are primarily targeted at midwives, health visitors and GPs, but are also applicable and accessible to a range of students and qualified health professionals who provide services for pregnant and postnatal women. Women with eating disorders are not a specific target audience, but the research team has ensured that the resources are considered acceptable to them.
The researchers formed a project group of stakeholders to provide expert input at various stages in the project, from development to dissemination. They ran co-design workshops with women and the primary targeted professionals to inform the development and to test the tools. They worked with Creative Connection, an award-winning animations company, to develop the animation film and a graphic designer to develop the website.
Engagement and impact
The research team are aiming for the resources to have national reach through a social media campaign and to be embedded within existing stakeholder websites, apps, online learning platforms and higher educational training programmes. They will conduct an evaluation of the project to assess the appropriateness and accessibility of the tools as well as the adoption and reach to primary targeted health professionals.
The project has been undertaken by a team of researchers within King’s Improvement Science, part of the Centre for Implementation Science, at King’s College London led by Dr Abigail Easter. For further information contact: Amanda Bye, firstname.lastname@example.org or Abigail Easter,email@example.com.
This project is funded by a Health Foundation, Evidence into Practice Award and will be completed by June 2018.